Monday, August 1, 2011

Peony in Love

Oh, Lisa See, I am in love with Peony in Love.  I read a lot of books, some under duress, but not many past my bedtime.  See’s story defines love – and not in the Hollywood infatuation romantic way.  See’s story defines love in ways that push readers to expansion.  See’s narrator, Peony, who spends most of the story as a ghost, is shunned and forgotten by her family members and must scrabble to survive in the afterlife amid well-tended ancestors of other people’s families.  True, she died stereotypically lovesick, in that Hollywood romantic tradition.  But, in death, and as a hungry ghost, Peony learns to understand that real love means wishing all good things for the loved one, even at the expense of the self.  It’s the old story about the lover with the long hair selling her hair to buy a watch chain for her lover who sells his watch to buy her hair combs.  All of that, yes, in a story that is historically accurate (the foot binding details alone are worth the read) and that beautifully illustrates the spirit of women – women with thoughts, opinions and talent who want to work, love, and be taken seriously – in lushly-drawn seventeenth-century China. 

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